Texas notes: Bianchi happy to be back

Oft-injured Royals prospect feeling healthy after elbow surgery

Jeff Bianchi is batting .255 with 10 RBIs in 25 games for the Naturals. (Shawn E. Davis/MiLB.com)

By Todd Traub / Special to MLB.com | May 10, 2011 6:00 AM ET

Jeff Bianchi would rather be on the field, but playing cards with his Northwest Arkansas teammates during a rain delay is fine, too. It's better than what the oft-injured middle infielder was doing last year at this time.

"I was at Arizona rehabbing, in one of those arm braces," recalled Bianchi, who missed last season recovering from Tommy John surgery. "It's tough being away from the game a whole year."

Until 2010, Bianchi was always able to get in at least part of a season, and impress Royals brass while he was at it.

Taken in the second round of the 2005 Draft out of Lampeter-Strasburg (Pa.) High School, he hit .408 in 28 games for the Arizona League Royals before a back injury shortened his first professional season.

He was hitting .429 at Arizona when a torn labrum cut his 2006 season to 12 games and limited him to 99 contests with Class A Burlington in 2007. Then Bianchi missed part of 2008 at Class A Advanced Wilmington with a groin injury.

Bianchi looked poised for a breakout after finally playing a full season in 2009, split between Wilmington and Northwest Arkansas. He batted .300 for the Blue Rocks and .315 with the Naturals, but then came the elbow injury that cost him all of 2010, and it was back to Arizona for rehab.

"The injuries I've had, they get frustrating at times, but I have to live in the now," he said. "I'm out playing again and what's behind me is behind me."

Bianchi's appeared in 25 of the Naturals' first 26 games this year, though some days that's as a designated hitter. He entered Monday batting .255 with 10 RBIs and a team-high eight doubles while striking out a team-high 23 times as he tries to get his stroke back.

"For missing all of last year, the bat has done pretty good -- it's been pretty steady," Naturals manager Brian Poldberg said. "It's still not where it was at that point two years ago. He gets quality at-bats. The arm -- we're being a little bit cautious with it. It's not what it was, at this point, but it's getting stronger."

Drafted as a shortstop, Bianchi has no problem sliding over to second on a given day, especially with the presence of Royals shortstop prospect Christian Colon. And he welcomes all the at-bats he can get at DH.

"I've been DH-ing every three or four games or so," Bianchi said. "I think that helps out with the load, the stress on my elbow coming off surgery."

It's possible that Bianchi could've been in Kansas City already, if not for the injuries, and he has every intention of getting there, but based on his recent experience, it's just good for Bianchi to be on any field at this point.

"I'm definitely happy with how I'm playing," he said. "There are things to improve on, and we'll just keep going at it."

In brief

Going long: Frisco starter Carlos Pimentel posted his longest start of the year Sunday. The 21-year-old right-hander gave up a run on four hits in 6 2/3 innings, but Midland eeked out the win on Kent Walton's ninth-inning RBI single, giving the RockHounds their league-high seventh one-run win of the year. Pimentel has a 2.70 ERA over his last three outings but has not factored into the decision in any of those starts.

Better late: Arkansas scored 11 runs in the ninth inning over two games as the Travelers rallied to beat Springfield on the road Saturday and Sunday. They scored three times in the ninth to take a 5-4 victory, then plated nine runs in the ninth the next day to stun the Cardinals, 10-6.

Todd Traub is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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